The Obsolete Gamer Show: Steve London (Halcyon 6)


We talk a look at Halcyon 6 the game inspired by classics such as Star Control, Master of Orion, X-COM, Civilization and new classics like FTL and talk to its composer Steve London who loves classic Commodore 64 and Amiga games, cool pizza toppings and the Toronto Maple leafs.

Halcyon 6 began as a Kickstarter passion project with a goal of $40k and raised over $180k. We get into all that and of course Steve’s love of music in our interview.

About Halcyon:

In the midst of a disastrous war, you and your ragtag group of Terran officers discover an ancient, derelict space station, and attempt to harness its mysterious power to turn the war’s tides in a grand, desperate campaign to save the human race from extinction.

Halcyon is available now on Steam early access.

Bonus: Check out some Halcyon game music from SoundCloud.

Ten Questions: Matt Barton

Matt Barton is one of the smartest and most interesting people you can find online discussing, loving and showing off old & new games. Now, although you should preferably get to know him via his work on Matt Chat, the Amrchair Arcade and some rather impressive books, reading the following interview should be both enlightening and considered as an appetizer.
dungeons and desktops dragon-1
1. Matt, care to introduce yourself to the merry retro loving lot that are the Gnomeslair.com & Obsolete Gamer readers?

I’m Matt Barton, host of Matt Chat, a weekly YouTube show dedicated to classic games. I’m also co-founder of Armchair Arcade and author of Dungeons & Desktops and Vintage Games (co-authored with my friend and colleague Bill Loguidice). I’m also an assistant (soon to be associate) professor of English at St. Cloud State University, where I teach classes in writing, rhetoric, and new media.

2. And what would you say some of your favourite games are? Any particular love for a genre or a gaming machine?

My favorite genres are adventure games, role-playing games, and strategy games. Some of my favorites include Baldur’s Gate, Pool of Radiance, World of Warcraft, Civilization, and the Nancy Drew series of adventure games. I have many consoles, but my favorite gaming device is the PC. Going further back, I will always be an Amiga and Commodore fan at heart.

3. So, Armchair Arcade, how would you describe the site and what’s the story behind it?

We were friends on a forum dedicated to Shane R. Monroe’s Retrogaming Radio show. We talked about putting together an online magazine, and eventually set it up. For awhile we focused on “issues” and tried to make it look like a retromag. We were amazed by how much attention it got, frequently mentioned on Slashdot and many other sites (even Slate and the Discovery Channel). Eventually, though, we morphed into a blog format and started selling our features to other sites (especially Gamasutra). Now we use AA as our home base for communicating to fans and fellow retrogamers, talking about our latest projects, and so on.

4. Same question on the incredibly well produced Matt Chat episodes… How did you decide to start a video show on retro games, and what would you say is this little something that makes Matt Chat unique (for, believe me, it is unique)? By the way, love that gaming wall you got in the background.

Matt Chat has come a long, long way in a short time. When I first started, it was just me and a webcam trying to hawk my books. The production quality was terrible! But I wanted to learn more about videos because Bill and I are producing a feature documentary for Lux Digital Pictures (Gameplay: The Story of the Videogame Revolution). I figured I needed more experience with videos to really handle a project like that, so I kept learning and experimenting, trying to refine my techniques. If you notice, I usually try to put in one more technique or one more refinement per episode, so I’m always learning something new.

I don’t think Matt Chat is unique. There are many, many other YouTubers out there doing similar shows. For instance, ianwilson1978 does great work on the Sega Genesis and Marlin Lee covers a variety of games. I guess one thing that makes my show special is that I feature games from all platforms, especially covering PC and computer titles that the others miss. Most other shows are dedicated to consoles, especially Nintendo classics. I figure those games already get enough love, so I try to cover ground that is not covered by the other shows–such as Dungeons of Daggorath for the Tandy CoCo, Tunnels of Doom for the TI-99/4A, or even the PLATO platform. I also feature interviews with classic developers, such as John Romero and Al Lowe. I’ll soon release my interview with Chris Avellone.

5. Really, is it tough producing something of this quality on a weekly basis?

It can be. Sometimes my editing program (Sony Vegas Platinum) crashes so much during rendering that I’m tempted to just give up. I would really love a better setup! The other big problem is capturing footage from games, especially old Windows games. Even with fraps, virtualdub, and the rest, it can be a nightmare sometimes capturing decent footage.

Other than these purely technical problems, though, it’s not hard at all. I can easily come up with things to say, and I like researching the games anyway. I also enjoy inserting inside jokes and humor, and interacting with the fans is a real joy.

6. How about your books? They are two on games and one on Wikis, correct? Do you feel gamers actually bother reading?

I think most gamers are highly intelligent; at least the ones I talk to. I know plenty of professors and graduate students who are serious gamers. But, of course, there are many who never pick up a book. That is sad, of course, since I couldn’t imagine living life without good books to read. It’s really important to read good books, not just newspapers and such. You can always tell when you’re talking to an avid reader, because he or she will be more knowledgeable on a broader range of topics–plus, I think it makes you more articulate and, frankly, intelligent. I had a friend who read War and Peace just for fun, but he told me later he felt more intelligent after reading it. Some people laugh at comics and graphic novels, but they are actually much more sophisticated now than they used to be. You could certainly learn a thing or two from Moore‘s work.

There’s really no excuse for being ignorant. So read!

7. Now, let’s focus a bit on the rather epic Dungeons and Desktops. Why CRPGs? Could you briefly describe the book? Has it sold to your expectations? Did you enjoy writing it?

It’s pretty much what it says; the history of computer role-playing games. I tried to talk about every important or even remotely influential game in the book, describing what makes them fun and how they fit into the grand history of the genre. I tried to show connections across eras and styles, so you could get a sense of the diversity. Someone may have heard of Baldur’s Gate, for instance, but be unaware of Planescape: Torment, Pool of Radiance, or Eye of the Beholder. I meet people who may know all about Zelda and Final Fantasy, but have never heard of Ultima or Lord British. That bothered me, so I thought it was time to write a book on the topic.

The book has sold well. Of course, something like this won’t be a bestseller. But I wrote this book for people like us, not the mainstream. By “us,” of course, I’m talking about people who love games like Wizardry and Fallout and enjoy nothing more than talking and thinking about them.

8. Should we expect more books from you? Maybe even a new project or collaboration?

Almost certainly, though it’s very hard to find publishers interested in game books. I have been dying to write a book on adventure games similar to D&D, but no takers so far. Bill and I have been talking about a book on the Atari 2600, and I’ve got one on virtual worlds that needs development. We will probably also write a book based on our documentary.

9. And now for something that interests me quite a bit on a personal level. How did you really manage to -effortlessly, it seems- combine an academic career with all this quality work on computer and video games?

In a sense gaming is my job. A professor is expected to research as well as teach, and game studies is an important part of new media. I’m presenting on aspects of gaming at two national conferences later this year (Computers and Writing, Rhetoric Society of America). People tend to think of “English” strictly as literature and grammar, but it’s far more than that! There are many of us studying games as well as other technologies like wikis and social networking. All of these things involve communication and rhetoric.

10. Finally, have you thought about actually creating a game yourself?

I have, though I’m not satisfied with the results! But a few years ago I taught myself C++ out of some books and made a simple adventure game, which I entered into the Interactive Fiction contest. I was shocked that it was 28th in the 12th annual interactive fiction competition. At any rate, it was fun learning C++, and I’d love to try something more ambitious one day.

The process of Design: Spice Road

spice road

Hi, I am Simon de Rivaz of Aartform Games and for the past year and a half I have been working on a new strategy game called Spice Road. This article shares a few highlights of the design process I have used to find a new space between existing genres. For me the process begins with happy memories of old games and the aspiration to find new areas of gameplay.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VnNMcK9Mw4[/youtube]

THE EMOTIONAL BASIS OF GAMES

What makes a game? Beyond the graphics and gameplay mechanics of a play session I find the emotions and motivations within the player leave the most lasting memories, and the deepest feelings of satisfaction. Feelings of wonder when I first step out into a new game world, and eventual feelings of competence and mastery as I dominate the endgame.

Designing a new game I hold as inspiration the way old games made me feel. The feelings of creating a successful economy, exploration and conquest. Games like Deuteros, Utopia and Civilisation remind me of the feel of building a complex empire over a long time, and the more immediate shocks and surprises of conflict. Even though the gameplay and graphics may be completely different in my own game these provide a good idea to aim at.

What makes a strategy game fun? Without the adrenaline of action games or the Pavlovian reward based addiction of an MMO, what makes the hours of detailed attention to a complex strategy game fun? For me it is the feeling of Flow. Named by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow is the feeling of complete and energized focus in an activity, with a high level of enjoyment and fulfillment.

In practice I feel this in a game when I am constantly thinking, planning, observing, and making new actions about every six seconds. The high level of attention seems to take over my mind and I lose sense of time. I knew I had something good going in Spice Road when I launched it to test a small feature – then suddenly realized I’d just spent a hour growing and nurturing a town.

So I begin knowing how I want my game to feel – but how to recreate those feelings in a new game? The starting point is to understand old games well.

GAME ANALYSIS

spiceroad2

I find it useful to understand games in terms of different game mechanics and how long the player spends working with each mechanic. This seems to cut through the cover-story and gloss and give a clear description of the game. For some games the majority of time is spend moving or waiting, with only a small fraction on making meaningful decisions. For a strategy game the big choice I found was how much micro-management to place on the player – how much time would be spent making interesting decisions as opposed to time spend implementing or maintaining those decisions.

I tried making simple charts of games splitting different aspects of their gameplay into parts and showing which parts depended on each other. This forced me to think abstractly about different game mechanics but was not very helpful when designing new games. The main thing this taught me is that most games are quite focused on one or two most important game activities, and the rest of the gameplay is supportive to those core aspects.
Indeed when I first mapped out the gameplay in Spice Road I found I had about 12 distinct and equally balanced gameplay mechanics. After several failed prototypes I decided to focus on a single mechanic (Building) and let all the other aspects radiate from there – providing reasons to build, and rewards from building.

The most interesting way I found to analyze old games was to try and follow their design choices while writing a mini-game prototype in their style. Much like imitating the old-masters in art and literature, imitation forces you to understand how a system really works.

The difficulties start once you move from imitation to innovation and it soon becomes apparent that just picking a list of ‘features’ and writing a game design does not work. The reason for this is somewhat down to complexity and chaos.

SYSTEM DYNAMICS

spiceroadbandits

Chaos Theory shows that a small number of rules can result in wildly complex and unpredictable results over time. A game composed of many rules has a similar outcome – it is very hard to predict how well two mechanics will work together or the result of changing a single rule without either having seen that exact result before or implementing the changes and trying it out live to see what happens.

I began work with lots of paper designs and outlines of how mechanics would work. Eventually those designs got turned into playable prototype games on the computer. Usually this translation would show the design in a very new light – I would get a very different feel from really playing the design to just imagining it. The interaction of different systems – such as combat and trading, town design and diplomacy – would now become tools for the player to work with rather than ideas on paper. Very soon a lot of the paper design turns out to be a trivial starting point to the real work of prototype iteration.

Another consequence of system dynamics is that I cannot be sure how a given mechanic will work in the game – so I cannot play favorites with my ideas. It is usually safer to have several alternative plans for a feature and try out a couple in games to see what works best in context. In practice this is often the trade-off between more or less complexity, automation or micro-management, chance or certainty, and finally how much of the player’s attention and time should be spent interacting with that feature.

Just as a paper design is a poor reflection of a final game, so too are early prototypes that have not been played by fresh players.

USER FRIENDLY POLISH

spiced road3

Game designs have been described as a local maxima in ideaspace. This draws on the thought that you pick a starting point (perhaps between a couple of existing genres) the then use all your tools of game design, imagination and improvement to move from that initial point towards the best possible game you can make. Each improvement takes you to higher levels of fun until you run out of time or hit a peak from which there is no improvement without making a large leap away towards a different type of game.

Once the game is working well for me as the designer – I have to consider how a new player will see the game and get some to test it to see their needs. A large chunk of work on modern games is priming the game with tutorials, tips and guides to ease the player into the game gently before ramping up the complexity and the difficulty. This final stage can lift a good but obscure game into being accessible and perhaps even popular.

Some helpful testing tools are watching a new player for 10 minutes over the shoulder, and running open beta-tests.

My design process is labor intensive, messy, wasteful and rather risky, but I think it is a good way handle the innate complexity of design and create innovative thoughtful games.

Civilization

Sid Meier's Civilization

A game I fondly remember playing again and again, burning the midnight oil and gaming the night away because of it, was Sid Meier’s Civilization, released by MicroProse Software in 1991.  This retro MS-DOS based game had it all: outstanding gameplay, a well-executed concept, and superb graphics (for its day), and was yet another hit from Sid Meier and his team.

Players started with a single settler (a covered wagon) at the dawn of civilization, chose a location to found their first city, and from that built an empire as the game timeline progressed to the Space Age.  Sometimes you’d find another computer player right next door, and either had to keep the peace with non-stop diplomacy, or – more times than not – send in the troops to crush them like the insects they truly were.  Up to six other civilizations were out there to discover, and they all had to be dealt with, one way or another (either the Americans, Aztecs, Babylonians, Chinese, Egyptians, English, French, Germans, Greeks, Indians, Mongolians, Romans, Russians, or Zulus.)

Sid Meier's Civilization

Yet this wasn’t just yet another military simulation; players had to build their empires by monitoring the happiness of their citizenry, providing improvements that would encourage growth in their cities, establish trade routes, and pursue technology advancements through scientific research.  Neglect anything for too long and the consequences could be dire: fall behind in the technology and your troops might be like the Polish Cavalry facing the Blitzkrieg on horse with sabres.  Forget to keep your citizenry content and your cities begin revolting.  Overlook trading with other empires and find your city improvement budgets limited.  Limit your internal and external upgrades of your cities, and watch them spontaneously Neglect to build up your military might and watch as your cities fall to the armed might of your bitter enemies – or worse yet, random barbarians raging across the continent. A strong empire builder needed to be aware of all aspects of their empire!

Sid Meier's Civilization

But, wait, there’s more!  This was an incredibly deep game.  You start out as a Despot (where do I sign up?), but as the game progressed and new ideas developed as a result of technological improvements, other forms of government presented themselves.  Each had its advantages depending on your goals and current state of your empire, but each also had disadvantages.  It wasn’t a great idea to switch to Democracy in the middle of a military build-up or full-blown campaign, as your citizens tended to be on the pacifistic side.  On the other hand, if you wanted to push the envelope on scientific development, ruling over your cities with an iron fist as King wasn’t a winning strategy either.

You could also gain serious advantages over the other empires by building one of the many Wonders of the World.  These took a long time to build, using up many resources, but could be the difference-maker between victory or defeat.  These Wonders varied by game era, and could become obsolete with new technological advances.  Some had limited appeal and should only be looked at under a specific set of circumstances, however.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJu7cUVTO8E[/youtube]

This game has not only stood the test of time, it has spawned many sequels: Civilization II, III, and IV, CivNet (the first multiplayer Civilization), Civilization Gold, and Civilization Revolution, as well as many similarly-themed games, such as Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Civilization: Call to Power, Colonization, and Master of Magic.  And the franchise doesn’t appear to be running out of steam anytime soon.  If you love retro games and you haven’t played the original Civilization, what are you waiting for?

 

The Interview: Nelson Gonzalez

Nelson Gonzalez, co-founder of Alienware Corporation,

Nelson Gonzalez

Is a gamer born or does it happen over time? What makes one’s idea die on the cutting room floor while the other turns into a blockbuster? Gamers and those within the culture are as diverse as America itself, but we all share similarities. When entering the PC gaming world one has to know the layout, where it came from and where it is going. We can look at the background of some of these pioneers and learn from them and if nothing else enjoy a good story.

Obsolete Gamer has had a chance to interview quite a few from the Alienware and Dell family including Alex Aguila and Arthur Lewis and we were excited when we had a chance to sit down with co-founder of Alienware, Nelson Gonzalez.

 

Can you tell us about what got you into gaming?

 

It was all about the arcade baby! The arcade was the catalyst to my immersion in those virtual worlds. Aside from video games, playing games from an early age was in our DNA. Everybody in the neighborhood was hyper competitive and we played basketball, football, chess, wargames, boardgames and of course…dungeons and dragons! We loved every aspect of gaming and competition.

 

What were some of your favorite games growing up?

 

Too many. I’m pretty old, but I will mention some of the PC games which is probably what you might be interested in:

Civilization, Privateer, Myst, Falcon, X-Com, Alone in the Dark, Red Baron, Pirates, Star Wars TIE/XWing, Aces over Europe/Pacific, Mech Warrior, SimCity, Doom, Quake, Wing Commander Series, Might and Magic Series, Unreal Tournament, Dawn of War, COD Series, Medal of Honor Series

 

Now as far as Alienware part of the name and style of the brand came from your love of science fiction?

 

Absolutely. I grew up watching great SciFi and Horror flicks. Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Invaders, UFO, Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space and of course, the X Files to name some of the TV shows. The movie list would be too long to detail. Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still (original), Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars would be a glimpse into my list though.

 

Alex Aguila and Nelson Gonzalez - Alienware

You and Alex Aguila were friends from an early age correct?

 

Yes, I met Alex when I was 10 or so. 35 + years…way too long! Arthur Lewis which now runs Alienware, has also been a friend since I was like 16. Hector Penton from Origin PC I’ve also known for 30 + years.

We are all big-time gamers.

 

What type of PC games do you and Alex use to play?

 

Right now I think both of us are on sabbatical. We are playing intense Warhammer 40K and its consuming quite a bit of our time. Alex plays a ruthless Space Marine Blood Angel. Hector is a brother of the Hivefleet Leviathan and my path is that of the Eldar.

 

Did you have any rivalries game wise with Alex?

 

Absolutely. Falcon 3.0 comes to mind. Quake 2 was also an immersive bloodbath 🙂

 

What was your first PC?

 

An XT 286 I believe.

 

You also began building PC’s at a young age can you tell us about that?

 

I started building PC’s with 80386 Intel processors with clock speeds of 12MHz…LOL. Then we moved up to 486’s w/VESA bus video cards. Then came Pentium processors and 3D graphic cards (gaming nirvana). The dawn of 3D games such as Castle Wolfenstein and DOOM really hooked us all. I was forced to become the technician of the group so we can play all these games. We played most of those games in DOS and they required some tinkering such as creating boot disks with Autoexec.bat and config.sys files for specific games . Ah… the good ol’ days.

 

Before Alienware you created your own PC building company, can you tell us about that?

 

Well I thought that I could build PC’s locally in South Florida, but soon realized that wasn’t my cup of tea. I really liked high performance and squeezing every bit of juice out of a PC. Building standard PC’s for business’s just didn’t satisfy me. I always felt that if we did something that was specific for the gamers just like us, we could survive as a business.

 

Nelson Gonzalez - Alienware

How did the beginning of Alienware come about?

 

I was with a friend of mine (who happens to be Hector Penton’s brother) in my kitchen one day and I pitched him the idea of custom building PC’s for gamers like us. I asked him what he felt about the name Alienware and he said it sounded pretty cool. At that point it just felt right. I immediately called Alex and asked him if he would join me in this new adventure. I told him that he needed to quit his job, give me like $5K and come to work immediately. To his credit he said yes without hesitation. The funny thing is that we weren’t really speaking to each other at that time and  I can only imagine the conversation he had with the wife that night. 🙂

 

What was the first few months like running Alienware?

 

Boy it was very intense. At times we nervously laughed and secretly prayed 🙂 We had no money, no resources, but somehow we felt confident. We knew if we ‘built it’, they would come. PC Gaming was in its infancy and we had experienced how addictive it really was. We knew we were on to something, but we just didn’t to what extent.

 

What would be one of your favorite moments while at Alienware?

 

There were so many, but that first PC Gamer ’98 Area 51 review written by Gary Whitta was one of those rare moments were I felt validated.

The first online order.

When we hit one million in revenue.

When we reached 100 employees.

When we had Michael Dell visit us at Alienware.

When we sold the company to Dell.

 

Do you have a funny story about Alienware you can share with us?

 

Alex telling me that “no one would order an expensive custom PC online” and then we get 3 orders the first day 🙂

 

How did it feel to see Alienware become so big?

 

Crazy. I knew we wouldn’t have to work for anyone else if we did our ‘thing’ and we performed well. I also felt that if we bent over backwards for the customer and treated our employees like we’d like to be treated, we would be OK. I never imagined it becoming so wildly successful.

 

What was it like during the acquisition by Dell?

 

Awesome. I think Michael really understood us and because we had such a synergistic model, the transition was good and the acquisition made sense.

 

What type of PC do you play games on now?

 

Alienware Aurora i7 3.2GHz

2 X ATI Radeon 5800’s

Win 7 64-bit

 

Do you play console games?

 

No not really. I’ll load up Heavenly Sword or Gran Turismo every once in a while for shits and giggles.

 

What PC games are you currently playing?

 

I was playing DC Universe online, but stopped, we all started playing 40K. I am getting ready for SWTOR and maybe, just maybe Duke Nukem…finally?

 

What would you say your favorite classic game(s) is?

 

If I had to pick one, it would have to be Civilization. Wow… did I burn out on that one.

My second would have to be XCOM. Classic arcade would have to be Joust and Lunar Lander.

 

Fallen Earth Q&A

Fallen Earth logo

Fallen Earth Q&A

Tired of swords and sorcery, of level and faction grinds, of dragons and dungeons, well welcome to the apocalypse. Fallen earth combines the depth of a role-playing game with the action of a first-person shooter all set against a post-apocalyptic earth in the year 2156. This online game brings you all the things you like about MMO’s like player advancement, gear and weapons, crafting and clans and kept out the things people hate like grinding for gear and long boring raids.

Recently Fallen Earth released their state of the game address discussing such issues as PVP, new contact and end game raids. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Marie Croall, Senior Game Designer on Fallen Earth about the game and the coming changes.

Let’s begin with the basics for those who may not be familiar with Fallen Earth. The game is a hybrid of First Person Shooters and Role Playing Games, can you tell us about this combined dynamic?

 

Marie Croall: All of our weapons use a reticle that you need to have on your target in order to hit them, once you hit them we resolve damage based on stats, skills and resists.

 

 

So in a nutshell, the Shiva virus began to spread across the world and nuclear war broke out leaving a wasteland, sounds like the perfect setting for a story. Can you tell us about the world players will find themselves in?

 

Marie Croall: Fallen Earth takes place 150 years in the future; humanity has just gotten to the point where they are starting to rebuild when clones (players) start showing up. To some, the clones are the solution to all their problems, but to others the clones represent something to be feared or worse – exploited.

 

There are factions the players can join, each one showing how different mindsets handle the fall of civilization: There are the CHOTA—wasteland barbarians dedicated to returning to the “old ways,”  Enforcers—descendants of military and police forces trying to keep up  traditions, Techs—scientists, scholars and engineers, Lightbearers – spiritual healers trying to calm the warring world, Travelers—racketeers and con men out for their own profit and the Vista—guerilla warriors bent on stopping the exploitation of  the healing Earth.

 

Each faction has its own allies and enemies, but there is no guarantee that any member will be friendly. Clones have to watch their backs pretty closely in FE.

 

 

Now some fans liken the world to Fallout. We know post-apocalyptic lands are not owned by any one game, but were there any influences on Fallen Earth from Fallout or other post-apocalyptic games?

 

Marie Croall: We’re all huge fans of the Fallout games, but most of our inspiration came from post-apoc and dystopian books and films.  It’s a genre we’re all very much into and favorites range from “A Boy and His Dog” and “Road Warrior” to “Six String Samurai.”  We’re also pretty addicted to the Post-apoc shows on the History and Discovery channels.  “Life After People” and “The Colony” are two of the more entertaining ones.

 

 

 

Can you give us a breakdown of customization and progression in Fallen Earth?

 

Marie Croall: We are a classless system. As the player gains experience they gain AP which they can put into any of the attributes or skills.  At level 15, players can select a faction, start participating in Conflict towns and begin to develop mutation lines if they choose.

We have a fairly extensive crafting system—about 95% of items are crafted. Scavenging and exploration are large parts of the world and the player experience.

 

Now the world is open and as far as PVP, there are arenas or you can flag yourself PVP and fight other flagged players, is that correct?

 

Marie Croall: There are actually three different ways you can participate in PvP. You can flag yourself for world PVP at all times, you can enter Blood Sports or you can enter an open PvP zone out in the world.  The open world PvP zones are usually found with conflict towns (settlements players can fight to control for their faction), or Faction Control Points. Taking a town generates merchants and questors specific to the controlling faction, gaining control of the Faction Control Points gives a buff to faction members.

 

What would you say is the learning curve to play Fallen Earth; do you have to be a MMO or FPS pro?

 

Marie Croall: There is a bit of a learning curve, but we’ve worked very hard to make sure that the game is challenging rather than frustrating.  Our player base has MMO players, FPS players and those who are new to both genres.

 

Fallen Earth - Gameplay Screenshot

Can you tell us a little about Terminal Woods?

 

Marie Croall: Terminal Woods is a bit of a bridge between Kaibab and Alpha County. It’s got quite a bit of mission content and introduces players to the Scavenger Bosses—group encounters that players will be able to craft a lure for the Boss. Rewards from the bosses can be used to upgrade existing gear.

Can you give us a hint about some of the long-term projects you plan to add in Alpha County?

 

Marie Croall: We’ve got quite a few new features coming. Progress Towns, settlements that players can build and defend, World Events and a crafting augmentation system are some of the new features we will be adding.  We will also be expanding our skills set with two new skill lines for players to add to their builds.

How important has feedback from the community been to the Fallen Earth team?

 

Marie Croall: We work very hard at reaching out to our players, getting their feedback and incorporating it in a way that works for our design and for the benefit of the community as a whole.

 

Can you tell us about Blood Sports and the changes you are working on?

 

Marie Croall: The changes we are implementing for Blood Sports revolve around fixing stability and team creation bugs.

 

About raid content, in your state of the game address you talked about not wanting the have people grind raid instances for gear, what would be a raid style that you feel would fit with Fallen Earth?

Marie Croall: Although we want to maintain the strategic element to battles. we will be focusing on smaller team size  and goals that fit well with the existing Fallen Earth systems.  It’s important to provide compelling motivation.

 

Can you give us a bit more info on the large-scale instance you are working on to be release post Alpha County?

 

Marie Croall: I can show you some concept art, but further info gets a bit spoiler-y.

 

What are some of the classic games the Fallen Earth team likes to play?

 

Marie Croall: While not all of these may be classics in a traditional sense, our list includes: D&DDonkey Kong,  Final Fantasy Tactics,  Super Mario, Madden Football, Russian roulette, Planescape: Torment, Ultima games, Diablo, not to mention board game nights that include Dominion, Carcassone, Infinite City, Dungeon Lords, Cash & Guns, Civilization, and Castle Ravenloft.

There you have it. If you are looking for a new experience in the MMO world then Fallen Earth is right up your alley. You can pick up Fallen Earth using their Online Download for about twenty bucks. The subscription fee for Fallen Earth is $14.99 monthly.

Check out our Gamer Profiles on some of the Fallen Earth team members:

Jessica Harper

Marie Croall

 

 

Rolf KloeppelL: Neonga

Neonga logo
Neonga logo

Name: Rolf Kloeppel

 

Company: Neonga

 

Profession: Chief Executive Officer

 

Favorite Classic Game: Civilization (I-V)

 

Quote: The Civilization Series had a major impact on my whole gamer life and I do not regret a single hour I have spent building up empires and ruling the world virtually.


 

About Neonga AG: Neonga AG is a publisher free-to-play Massively Multiplayer Online Games. These are offered for free as PC downloads, browser games, in Facebook or to be played on mobile handsets. The games are associated with “Item Shops”, where players can acquire specific premium goods. The company was founded in Berlin in July 2010. The Board consists of Rolf Klöppel (CEO), Benjamin Kaiser (CTO) and Stefan Hinz (CMO).

 

 


GOG Sale – Master of Magic

Master of Magic cover
Master of Magic cover

GOG Sale – Master of Magic

The grand daddy of Magic meets Civilization games (literally) is finally available on Good Old Games for $5.99. This game had many improvements over the original Civilization 1, that we now see in modern games, and the later sequels of Civilization.

You could make cities, just like in Civilization but you could do things like boost production or change the terrain using spells. Your armies level up (to a degree), as well as you getting hero units which can dramatically change the way your armies behave (sort of like Heroes of Might and Magic except that these heroes fight). You could boost army performance as well by enchanting their weapons, stats, etc. You could boost heroes as well by giving them magic items.

You research spells, manage your economy, explore areas that have monsters or the armies and cities of other wizard’s empires, etc. You cast spells in combat or in general to manipulate the world. The game is AMAZING and one of my favorite strategy games of all time. Basically, any of the early games published by Microprose were! (Civilization 1 & 2, XCOM 1 & 2, Master of Orion 1 & 2)

Click here to go to the sale!

Civilization 5 coming Fall 2010

Civilization 5 Coming Soon
Civilization 5 Coming Soon

Civilization 5 coming Fall 2010

The latest installment of one of the best strategy games of all time, if not the best one will be out Fall 2010.

The Civilization games are the ultimate empire game strategy simulation games ever made. I have probably played these games more than anything ever. I can’t wait for Civilization 5 to make me lose sleep and make me forget to eat all over again. 😀

Sid Meier is an (evil) genius! 😀

UPDATE: This game sucked. Read the review here.

Master of Orion

Master of Orion box cover
Master of Orion box cover

Master of Orion 1 (MS-DOS) Review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“The original explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate space mega empire game.”

Overall Score:

10 out of 10

Overview:

This is the grand daddy, 5000 lb gorilla of space empire games. From the now dead Microprose, this is one of those games, among XCOM and Master of Magic and Civilization that made that company a gaming legend.

You take the role of the immortal emperor of one of many emerging races that just discovered the ability to travel to other star systems and begin the competition for colonization, later leading to war, and galaxywide politics as to who will win the war for supremacy or the votes of all nations as the race to unify the galaxy as the leader of a mega empire (ending the game).

The game consists of you taking turns (non-simultaneous) with your rivals, managing your planets’ development, research directions (allows multiple research projects at a time vs 1 in later space empire games, which I think that’s unrealistic), your spy projects (they can sabotage, steal tech, be sleepers), your diplomacy (make alliances, actually never do almost, and trade tech, start trade deals, threaten and demand tribute, end and start wars), and conquer conquer conquer. You can orbitally bombard planets to dust basically or be smart about your killing (because later the weapons can literally scorch all populations out of existence, even one ship) and enslave, I mean welcome the conquered population to your empire.

There are different races that each has an advantage, whether a bonus in diplomacy or faster production or research or better combat skills (space or ground combat, which is good for taking over planets) or spying or their people breed like rabbits or some don’t require any terraforming whatsoever (which is a major part of the game, being able to actually claim and live on planets aka breathing is a major technology).

The game is won be either eliminating all rivals or becoming the new emperor of a unified star empire.

This is the game that inspired most future space empire games such as Space Empires, Galactic Civilizations, Sword of the Stars, Sins of a Solar Empire, etc.

Fun Factor:

This game is like crack. If you love micromanagement and having to defend 6 fronts at a time, this is the turn based strategy game for you. Since the game is turn based, you can take your time planning where to attack next or who to try to start a war with (or make them fight each other by making your spies start a fake terrorist attack vs each other). The game makes you feel as though you are using your brain and even to this day, over 15 years of me playing it, I’m always finding out new little secret strategies to deploy. If you’re a war gamer, you will agree that this game has a Fun Factor of 9 out of 10. It’s a game for thinkers.

Difficulty Versatility:

The game has like 5 difficulty settings and it becomes really brutal the higher you go. You can scale the size of the galaxy so that you can play a long or REALLY long game. This sometimes has a harsher effect on how hard it is. Imagine having to fight a fleet of 20 war planets producing full time vs one of 4 planets. It requires you to have the logistical foresight to be able to take on such an onslaught. I give the Difficulty Versality a score of 10 out of 10.

Value:

Well, Microprose is dead and basically so this game is now free. You can get it from sites such as http://www.abandonia.com/ or http://www.homeoftheunderdogs.net/ and run it on DOSBox for free. You can also opt to buy Master of Orion 1 + 2 together for $5.99 from Good Old Games. Since this game is amazing and it’s free or very cheap, the score for Value is maxed out at 10 out of 10.

Replayability:

I’ve been playing it at least 2-3 times a year since the mid 90s. It’s one of those games that is on a permanent list to play each year. Like Civilization, once I start playing this game it’s hard for me to do anything but that for a good 2-4 weeks, each time. Replayability gets a 10 out of 10.

Sound:

I usually have the sound off, but the sounds are okay for an early 90s DOS strategy game. I give the Sound a score of 6 out of 10.

Music:

The music is alright but I usually shut it off and play some classical or epic music in the background. Keeps the game play strong and my concentration on maxing out planets and blowing up enemy fleets. The Music that comes with the game gets a 6 out of 10.

Graphics:

Of course, the graphics are now way dated, but for it’s time they were pretty great for a war game. The weapon beam effects look great for DOS and even the homing missiles look threatening although it’s just a grey arrow almost. Considering the style behind the Microprose games of this time and that it’s a war game, Graphics get a 9 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game never, ever crashes, itself. Sometimes DOSBox has some issues when you ALT-TAB but that’s a problem with DOSBox, not the game itself. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are simply point and click with a few hotkeys integrated. The hotkeys however are not necessarily shown in game and you’d have to read the manual or look them up online. Some are essential like B for scrapping your missile bases in case they are too obsolete or your war front has moved up from that location and you’re wasting resources maintaining them. I give controls a 7 out of 10 because although some are hidden, they do what they’re meant to do properly and keep the game playable.

Performance:

This game will run godlike on any computer, maybe even a mobile phone. Performance instantly gets a 10 out of 10.

My history with this game:

This is actually one of the first PC games I’ve ever bought and it was well worth it as it has given me literally over 1000 hours of gameplay. I played it first on a 486 so you have an idea how much of a place in my gaming history this game has. Because of it’s turn based nature I’ve even played this game while working and that’s very doable so long as you have good multitasking skills and a good memory as to your strategems. I hope you will all start playing this classic even as a new gamer, you will learn new ways to think and that’s always, always rewarding in itself.

Master of Orion manual
Master of Orion manual